Congrats! You have now purchased your learning management system. I’m sure you feel relived and elated.
Enjoy it will you can, because the next stage can create more stress than waiting in line at Disney World.
Many people will ask their potential vendor what is the implementation time, but will forget to ask if the vendor has a dedicated project manager.
Why is this important? Because this person is going to either be your new BFF or someone you will gripe about to your salesperson. Sadly, I’ve seen both.
Let’s break it down
Assuming that your system will take more than 48 hours to go live, you will need a project manager.
This person handles everything from the vendors’ side of thing. They create the project plan (which you should always review), set the time table and may assign others within the company to assist with the launch.
Let’s assume you have signed the contracts and ready to implement.
The next call you should receive is from your vendor’s project manager. If you receive a call from your salesperson who is handling the project management duties, that is not something you ideally want.
Because their number one job to land more clients – as in sales. This is their priority. You? Not so much. Sure, they will be there for you, but a good LMS company will have a team in place for you, rather than the salesperson.
As noted above, you will be assigned a project manager. A typical LMS team will consist
- Project manager – the person who handles it all, who will deal with your issues, etc. – they will set the deadlines and inform you that once you sign the implementation schedule, then it will be delivered on that date, unless you decide to add things or mass customize or forget to return docs needed to move forward. Then the date changes.
- IT person – this can very from companies, but this person is in essence a programmer or someone along those lines. Some companies call them a technology consultant, but this is the person who works behind the scenes to get it moving forward (assuming that the system does not require any skinning, etc. – that you can not do yourself)
- Others behind the scenes – you won’t know them, so ignore
A good LMS vendor will put together a nice support team for you. Please note that they are not only dedicated to you – so while any issue that arises, is deemed high priority for you, it is not always the case with the vendor. They typically have a system in place, will they assign by colors or terminology, what is high, medium and low priority.
But I digress. Let’s go back to the ideal team.
- Person from support dedicated to you (again, they may be dedicated to 20 companies). I’ve seen some vendors who have such a person, and honestly it is a nice touch. Because when the going gets tough or more importantly your end users gripe about tech related problems (assuming it is existing in the system and not on your end), this is the key person to connect and help you.
- Training person. They train you on how to use the product. Ideally you would want a person who is actually a trainer or who has extensive training background. Sigh, this is not always the case.
You would think that all LMS vendors would have people whose background is in technical training or heck even training. Especially when the people buying the systems are: TRAINING FOLKS.
Guess what? You would be wrong. For many LMS vendors they do the following
- Setup webinars for you to view on your own
- Provide training guides, materials and other assorted docs
- Have a walkthrough on how to use the product with fellow new customers. Something I totally hate.
- Have the salesperson provide the training. The assumption here is that the person knows the product inside and out, thus they can train you
I believe that vendors who go this route assume that anyone can train, similar to folks who believe anyone can teach. Yeah in theory they can, but they will stink at it – because they do not understand the effective ways/means to train, nor understand all the nuances with adult learners.
I always put it this way to the vendor.
Would you hire someone who has no sales background and assume that they can sale? Sure, they can do it, but how effective will they be compared to someone who has previous sales experience, especially in the LMS or e-learning space?
- Assign a tech person to train. Awful. They tend to fire off jargon and zing all over the place, rather than follow a path (which by the way, sales people tend to do to – i.e. zing all over the place)
- Offer on site or at their location. I have mixed feelings with this approach. While I can see value in it (one company where I ran training and were strong on e-learning – we had this option), I can also see a downside to it. What is it? Time and training. Especially the training.
I’ve attended some training sessions with e-learning vendors and it can range from wonderful to absolute garbage. The only thing you get out of the garbage is a trip paid by your company to hopefully a cool location.
On the LMS side it runs the entire gambit.
- Support and Training for free (for the length of your agreement)
- 1st year of training and support for free
- Training packages
- Support packages
I like the first option. However many vendors argue that because there is additional cost involved they can not follow that structure. What they forget is that anything can be wrapped into the overall pricing.
Many vendors will do so by putting into the “setup fee”. What I love to see is the ultimate spin when it comes to “updates and maintenance”.
Nowadays I’m seeing more vendors use this pitch:
- Within setup (updates and maintenance included)
- Updates and maintenance included – as if it would be optional
99% of the LMSs out there include updates and maintenance at no additional charge.
I always use a car as an example to a LMS. When you buy a new car it typically comes with a warranty. This doesn’t matter if the car costs 12K or 500K.
Why then would you purchase a LMS that does not come with updates and maintenance? Or better yet, why pay extra for it?
Purchasing your LMS is only the first stage in the overall process.
A process that may have taken you one month or more than a year.
Your implementation, training and support will be either more relaxing or more painful depending on the vendor and what you have agreed to.
Don’t assume that training is going to be handled by actual training folks, with actual training experience.
Don’t assume that your support is free or dedicated only to you (and not with other companies too).
Don’t assume that your salesperson is always going to be there for you, night and day awaiting for your beckoned call.
Because they won’t.
Craig, you make some good points here – one small observation: The IT people you need working on an LMS project need to understand where to go to resolve Network, Load testing, Security (Firewall./Proxy servers, Penetration testing) and Desktop environment issues – that’s not something I would expect a programmer to be able to provide. My succesful implementations have always included an IT Project Manager who makes that all happen.
True, but I am talking about from a vendor. As for the company side, I would find out from the head of the IT department what we had. Then I would tell him what we needed. For example, one company I worked at had the speakers off on all the computers at the company. I had IT turn them on, for each end user.
I always recommend finding out some additional specs before selecting a system. Again, example: your company uses IE 7 and cannot support anything above Flash 8.
With the IE, your company cannot add any other browser, otherwise the computers will crash.
If the vast majority are accessing your LMS from work, then obviously you wouldn’t be able to use certain LMSs.
However, always remember that research data shows that folks who are not hourly, tend to use the system out of workplace.
That said, I always knew what our company..as in the places I worked could do and not do. If you are a training exec use that leverage, especially if the company as a whole including the CEO supports and wants a LMS..again the CEO or COO.
IT doesnt want to do something, I would go to my boss, often the COO and ask for help. Amazingly, IT would do what was needed.
Then again, as a whole I always made sure to make good friends with the IT director and whoever runs HR…they will become key stakeholders in the LMS or e-learning endeavors.
Excellent article — well-thought through, important info. Thanks for the post!
Excellent article. After working for a LMS vendor for over four years I’ve noted certain things that are not considered in the sales process.
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